Cuentos de Colaboración
Memories from the week the Storytellers in Our Communities class spent working
with the beautiful community of El Manzano Uno, Nicaragua
with the beautiful community of El Manzano Uno, Nicaragua
I love this picture of an activity we did with the high schoolers where we asked them to show us where they see beauty in their community. The question was very open and abstract on purpose. We wanted to leave room for all walks of creativity.
Watching the girls collaborate and communicate was so special for me. They decided to lead us around the coco loco property and pick and explain different flores to us. It was great because we found a common connection with the beauty of flowers. It was also a conversation that I could engage in with the level of my spanish regarding flower colors and smells.
After picking all of the flowers, they then decided that they wanted some shells from the beach. What they created using the flowers and shells together was truly remarkable. I stood in awe as I watched them piece together each flower and shell with purpose into this work of art. The pride they felt in their finished product was so evident. I loved being a part of this bonding, and creative outlet experience.
Community is a word that can be used in many different ways. We all feel ourselves as part of a community- whether that is where we live, the school that we go to, or even within our family and friends. While in Nicaragua, I learned how powerful it is to go into someone else’s community, and learn what makes their community special through storytelling. This photo came from a day in the community, with the high school students that we had been working with. On this day, we were invited to go into the community, and meet other community members while playing sports together. This day really impacted my experience in Nicaragua because it wasn’t a structured learning workshop, but rather an avenue to form relationships with the students in a language that we all speak- competition and sports. Playing on a team together with Nicaraguans helped me to better understand the commonalities between all people of the world, and that we are all global citizens. I think this photo displays the love and support that we found in the El Manzano Uno community and in a place that means so much to them. The field that we were playing on is behind the high school, which has become a big part of their lives after construction was finished in 2014.
I learned a lot about community support through the structure of the non-profit, Waves of Hope. The way that Waves of Hope interacts with the community is unlike anything I had ever heard of before. Waves of Hope is committed to helping the community with what the community needs at the time. Currently, they are focused on education, because that is what needs the most attention. But as time goes on, they fully understand that this may change, and they may need to shift their focus They are not bringing in ‘experts’ from outside, because who could be more of an expert than someone who has lived in the community their whole life? They use the community members as a resource to their success. Rather than just coming into the community and fixing the ‘problems’, the non-profit engages the community and inspires them to grow together. This made me reflect on the communities that I am a part of, and made me consider how to foster an environment of mutually beneficial support in other community endeavours. To be able to bring us into El Manzano Uno and have this group of students from thousands of miles away feel the impact that the non-profit has must mean that they are doing something right, and definitely something to learn from. Not only did I observe how the community continued to grow, but also how I continued to grow from learning and reflecting on this experience.
~ Courtney Hunter
Namasté: My soul honors your soul. I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. I honor the light, love, truth, beauty and peace within you, because it is also within me. In sharing these things, we are united, we are the same, we are one.
Every yoga practice concludes with this gesture, this invitation to connect on a deeper level, this recognition that we are one and the same in this shared moment. It is a symbol of the connections between us, as well as the mutual respect we feel for one another.
The heart of our work in Nicaragua took place here in this yoga studio. Initially, we chose this location based on its openness and its proximity to El Coco Loco; however, when I reflect back on our time together, this space is so symbolic of everything we accomplished. Our work was centered and dependent upon making connections, learning from one another, and sharing our stories. It was about building relationships to not only celebrate cultural differences, but also to acknowledge the similarities that we all have in common as human beings. This type of work requires trust and respect, beliefs that develop over time. With only three days devoted to our workshop, we weren’t sure how receptive the students would be to the activities we had planned. Those concerns quickly became a memory, for right from the beginning, the students were so open and engaged. It was truly amazing to see how quickly we were able to bond with each other, allowing us to connect on a deeper level in such a short period of time. We told each other what makes us who we are, we learned about each other’s life journeys, and we reflected about our communities and what makes them so special. Everyone had a voice, and it was so powerful to be able to help each other bring out the voices inside us.
The space is such a crucial element to create a safe and supportive environment for conversations such as these to happen, and whether we were aware of it or not, this yoga studio contributed so much to the success of our workshops. The themes of our activities reflected the values that are essential to the practice of yoga: respect, connecting, and understanding. In this space, we were united not only through this experience, but also through the recognition that we share so much in common. This yoga studio became a communal space for us all, a space that created memories, a space that will be within each of our hearts. It will forever unite us, and I’m so thankful for that.
~ Grace Twardy
I didn’t know what to expect when I applied for this trip, I especially didn’t expect to create such meaningful relationships. I entered this journey with a picture in my mind of how I assumed it would be but the actual experience of it was beyond expectations. This wasn’t just a “trip” for me it was a life experience. We truly lived and learned about the depths of the El Manzano Community and their culture. The community shared their environment with us and were truly vulnerable in sharing every aspect of their life with us. In the picture above this activity was named “Connecting across Borders.” The intertwining paths of yarn represent a unification of two communities in sharing valuable pieces of their lives and community with one another. In Nicaragua the youth of El Manzano Uno and the Providence College students joined together to form one community with each other.
On this service- learning trip I was enlightened to a whole new world outside of my own bubble. I was engaged and immersed in a whole new culture so far off than my own, however I experienced a deeper connection with the people I met in this community than I ever thought was possible. Without even speaking the same language we all taught each other so much. I realized that no matter how strong the language barrier was it never took away from the relationships we were able to create. The act of laughter, smiles, touch, and sharing of interests was what made the cultural differences such as language seem so minimal. Watching the paths of yarn thrown across the circle and every person holding on to it showed how connected we all are. Through this experience I gained a whole new perspective and realized just how big the world is, but also how small. There are always going to be differences between two cultures, such as the language we speak, but the differences are so surface level to the foundation of humanity we all share with one another. The path of yarn represents a unity of different point of views and a unity of communities that have given me a broadened perspective on life that I will always hold on to.
~ Melanie Griswold
This picture showcases one of the may eye-opening and rewarding activities that we performed with the high-schoolers in Nicaragua. This activity was called “Picture of Self”, and each student, both Nicaraguans and Americans, were given an empty template on a piece of paper with just the shape of human body on it. Students were asked to fill in the human figure with words, pictures, and symbols that they felt described and defined them as a person. The outcome and take-away messages learned from this activity were more eye-opening and rewarding than I could have expected.
Looking at this photo, it is evident that no picture looks exactly the same; each of us are different and unique in our own way, and that uniqueness is shown to be universal cross-culturally. No matter what country or culture you are in, no two people are exactly the same. We may share in certain communities, but it is shown here that we each have a different view of our self than anyone else has of their own self.
This uniqueness in our own self-view is mainly focused on our outward views of ourselves though. If you look closer at each picture, you will see more similarities than differences of how we define ourselves and what values we all hold close to us. Many of the pictures read words such as: “family”, “friends”, “God”, “One Direction”, and “love”. No matter if we are American or Nicaraguan, we share in our similar values and certain aspects of our lives. We all seem to see ourselves as a byproduct of our family, our environment, and our culture. We may not share in the same culture, but our different cultures seem to evoke similar values and promote similar ways of acting.
This activity opened my eyes to how we may differ on the outside and with where we live in our local communities, but on the inside, as human beings sharing in this global community, we seem to be connected much more than we realize. This was one of the first activities of the trip that helped me to understand how united all human beings living on this Earth truly are. We may see and portray ourselves differently, but our basic human instincts and truths evoke similar principles and ideals within all of us.
~ Charles D'Alessandro
What I liked most about this organization was the way that they interacted with the community. It wasn’t like a bunch of random people decided to come in and take over a community and completely change everything that the community stands for. All of the work that has been done has been executed with respect and a genuine desire to empower this group of people. Instead of telling the people what they had to do and how and when they had to do it, the founders of Waves of Hope really engaged with the village. They learned about their ways of life and how they operated. They were able to reach an understanding of what their priorities are and the kinds of values that they build their lives on. From taking this time to actually get to know the people in this neighborhood and figuring out what they actually need, this non-profit built a platform with which they could truly provide for this community. Not only did they have the respect of the people living there, but they also gained valuable and irreplaceable allies within the community. Waves of Hope created a foundation that is strong and stable and this allowed it to truly make a difference. I also really liked how Waves of Hope focused on meeting every members basic needs as well as emotional needs. The organization worked on housing, clean water access, and education but they also emphasized personal growth. They are working to build up a community by looking at them as a whole person, not just someone that needs a house or needs access to clean water. By not only focusing on meeting basic needs, this non- profit could see how their work was transforming this community for the better. Although there are still a lot of problems to tackle, their philosophy shows that if you work with a group of people and treat them as your equals, actual change will occur.
~ Sophia Johnston
In my eyes, this photo represents a large part of our time in Nicaragua, that time being spent playing. Our main purpose in facilitating the workshops with the high school students was to create a safe place in which they could share who they were, what their community was like, and what their dreams for the future are. While working to create this place, I noticed something wonderful happening. Within this space, and throughout these times of deep, thoughtful reflection, the act of play was a crucial part of the entire experience.
Pictured here are the younger children playing a game on the final day. During the beginning of the week with the older students, the beach ball would be tossed around in the beginning of the day and throughout breaks in the day. It may have been a fun thing to do to pass the time between each activity but it also created this wonderful connection between everyone participating. There was also a wonderful balance between the reflective activities and playfulness of games. This is similar to the work-play balance that many people strive for in life. I understand there is a time to be serious and then there is a time to play but I believe that all life should be playful. We should find the same joy in our work that these children find in running around and hitting a beach ball back and forth.
~ Meghan Swan
There are so many pictures and memories to choose from when reflecting back on one of the very best weeks of my life in beautiful Nicaragua. When I stumbled upon this one, it made so much sense. It includes and combines the most important aspects of this journey and in a single picture, I am reminded of the beauty life has to offer.
I look at this picture and I see a few things. First, I see Ibis and Kristen, the girls on either side of me. Coming in to this journey as strangers and leaving it as friends. Forming bonds with both of these ladies that have been incredibly special for me. These friendships have formed from laughter, similarities, differences and being out of our comfort zone.
I look and I see that I, along with the others, are in deep thought. We are each drawing our own “River of Life”- a task that is more daunting than one would think. It begs the question, “What direction do you see your life heading in?”. A question that has become all too real with three more months left in college. Seeing the girls looking over as we all contemplate this together brings a sort of peace. It shows that we are not in this alone.
One of the ladies looking over as we draw our rivers is Mariella, a ‘sweet as can be’ high school student and I see Miguel, a ‘shy, energetic and incredibly funny’ middle school aged student both from the El Manzano Uno community. The five of us all working together- planning our lives and unknowingly all impacting each other by simple looks, words and feelings.
~ Emiy Direnzo
In the weeks prior to our to departure to Nicaragua, as a group we came up with a number of workshops under the themes of storytelling; the story of self, the story of my community, and the story of us. I think we were all very proud of and excited about what we had come up with, but also nervous in the sense that we really had no idea what to expect. The workshops were everything we had hoped they would be and so much more. True connections across border were established.
The two images above are from one of my favorite activities which was called, Treasures of Our Community: Making your community known. The high school students brought us on a treasure hunt to show us things that they consider to be important to them and their community. Mariela, Gabriella, Yosseling, Felicita and Jasmin showed Emily, Sophia and I the tree and the ocean as elements of their community and had chosen the two pictures to share with the entire group.
This was an opportunity for us to see and learn about the surrounding community and where the learners came from. These pictures reflect the true beauty of the El Manzano Uno community. Along with experiencing the beauty of their community through this activity and over the course of the week, we were also able to see their strong values of trust, respect, and family.
~ Kristen Lawler
When looking back at the trip I find myself being grateful for all the people I met and the smiles they brought to my face. Throughout the trip, I was fortunate enough to meet people who made me see the world in a brighter light. In this photo is Steven, a young boy from the area who came with his friends and little sister during our last day in El Manzano Uno. Steven was curious, playful, and full of energy. He was drawing magnificent pictures of whatever he saw around. When I got close to him, I could tell he was curious about my camera. He ended up taking my friend’s camera and would keep snapping till the camera ran out of battery. He reminded me as a kid being curious about the world and wanting to capture all that I could. When I reflect on the trip, I think of kids like Steven that I met, young a full of life. Kids who might not have much in material goods, but have everything in terms of friends and family. They showed me that sometimes the simplest of moments can be the best of moments. This photo reminds me to appreciate every moment of everyday. To my friend Steven, I say thank you!
~ Stefan Puente
Storytellers in Our Communities
Eleven members of the Providence College community traveled to El Manzano Uno, Nicaragua during their winter break as part of their global service learning course to continue building relationships between their two communities and to explore matters pertaining to community literacy and storytelling.